Nate Sallie (’98): Singer-songwriter for Curb Records
February 26, 2014
Nate Sallie grew up trying to dance like Michael Jackson, sing like Stevie Wonder and play the keys like Harry Connick Jr., with dreams of someday making it as a professional music performer.
For the past 15 years, Sallie has been doing just that — except, for the most part, without the dancing. A 1998 graduate of Evangel’s Music Department, Sallie is a solo recording artist with Curb Records, and a contributing songwriter for several top-listing Christian artists.
From 2007 to 2009, Sallie served as the lead singer for the Grammy-nominated band Newsong. He has released two solo albums, Inside Out (2003) and Ruined for Ordinary (2007), and has a third releasing this spring. Sallie has also written several singles for other artists including the song “That’s How You Change the World,” from the Newsboys’ latest album, as well as the current radio hit “All Eyes on You” performed by The Oswald Brothers Band.
Sallie grew up in the eastern United States, moving from Washington D.C. to Maryland to Virginia. Along with a love for music, Sallie was pursuing his interest in basketball. While attending high school in Virginia, Sallie received a basketball recruitment letter from Evangel, which aroused his interest in the university. But Sallie’s aspirations to play basketball in college ended when he broke both ankles his senior year.
“My dreams of playing in the NBA were dashed, but I still had a fighting chance to play the pipe organ for the league and their halftime shows,” Sallie says, “so I chose to study music.”
Coming in as a 17-year-old freshman, Sallie says he lacked confidence as a vocalist. But his four years studying under music professors like Dr. June Kean and Dr. Richard Honea equipped him with the skills that he still uses today.
“Dr. Honea and the music program were instrumental in helping me develop my range, timbre, power and overall vocal quality,” Sallie says. “When I stepped off campus, the training I had received had more than equipped me for the intense studio vocal sessions, and live concert vocals that I would be embarking on over the next 15 years and beyond.”
The Melt Like Sugar Orchestra
Sallie thrived in the music scene at Evangel, leading worship for chapel, playing music at Harvest Fest and Spring Fling and playing music shows at the Joust. Sallie says he was pursuing his dreams of becoming a professional musician in college, but had no real game plan for how to make it happen. His shows at the Joust helped at least get him started.
“The opportunity to play a few shows for peers at the old Joust was really the catalyst for catapulting me into my music career,” Sallie says. “My goal was to pack as many of my musician friends on the stage as possible, and it turned out looking like a modern-day orchestra.”
The group played music ranging from jazz to swing to pop. “You name it, we did it,” Sallie says. And with a group like that, Sallie needed a creative name – something unique to fit the music. That was how the “Melt like Sugar Orchestra” was born.
One member of Sallie’s orchestra was Matt Moore, who is now an adjunct professor of music at Evangel. Also a music major at the time, Moore had met Sallie through some mutual friends, and the two had connected based on their interests in similar musical groups. Moore says the practices and performances were creatively stimulating and a lot of fun, both due in good part to Sallie’s leadership.
“It didn’t matter if you were a vocalist, horn player or drummer,” Moore says. “Nate would just have these amazing, creative ideas that would take a song to the next level, while at the same time not smashing anyone’s creativity in the process.”
Along with performing the shows, the group recorded several of Sallie’s original songs, and he sent them to Nashville. Before long, Sallie was signing a deal with Reunion Records, who had sent a representative to watch a few of the live shows during his senior year.
Life in the business
Following graduation, Sallie moved to the Nashville area. Navigating the business side of music, he went through three record deals before signing with Curb Records in 2001, where he is still an artist today.
Sallie lives in Springfield, Missouri area between travel dates now with his wife Sarah (Shirley, ’97) and five children. He is involved in worship as the music director at Christ Community Church.
Though he acknowledges life hasn’t always been easy in the music industry, Sallie says he holds tight to his goal as a musician: to glorify God with the talents he has been given and to help those he can through his songs.
“I write songs for the broken, bruised, and bleeding, with an all-out effort to offer a glimpse of God’s hope, love, freedom, forgiveness, and restoration power,” Sallie says. “That gives me a reason to write.”
With this in mind, Sallie’s advice to students is to build a relationship with the creator of creation, not a religion.
“There will be monumental mountaintop moments, and there will be times you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death,” he says. “Don’t stay there and camp out, but walk through. He never leaves us or forsakes us.”
With his third solo album set for release this spring—the first single will come out in April—Sallie says he’s still searching for a good album name.
“I’m still trying,” he says, “to beat a title like the Melt like Sugar Orchestra.”
This piece was written by senior English major Ian Richardson. Check out his blog about life at Evangel.